GRAND BANK, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
The next few months are critical for the Grand Bank Regional Theatre’s future.
The 2018 theatre season, its 23rd, wrapped up in late August at the Bait Depot.
The financials were “very positive this year compared to previous years,” Jack Burfitt, chair of the not-for-profit organization’s board of directors, told The Southern Gazette Sept. 21.
The town-owned venue, however, was only a temporary solution for 2018 and has been rejected as an option by Grand Bank Town Council going forward.
A return to the theatre’s permanent home, within the Samuel J. Harris Building, is most likely also out. The building has numerous health and safety issues. The town is looking to demolish the structure.
“I don’t know if that section can be saved, but it would be a long shot, a very long shot to do it,” Mayor Rex Matthews told The Southern Gazette on Sept. 25.
In correspondence to the town on Aug. 23, the theatre board asked to keep using the Bait Depot. Council held a special meeting on Sept. 10 to address the request. A decision was made to reaffirm an agreement signed with the theatre board in June that the organization would vacate the building by the end of September.
Burfitt, Stan Burt and Clayton Welsh, all serve as councillors with the town and are also on the theatre’s board. They are not part of council’s discussions about the theatre due to potential conflicts of interest.
During council’s meeting on Sept. 20, Burfitt did express his disappointment with the outcome.
The Bait Depot, located on the Grand Bank waterfront, has been used by the special events committee during the town’s annual summer festival for more than a decade. The building was available this year as the festival had been forced to relocate for the past two summers while work was being done on the wharf.
The first phase of the wharf project has been completed, however, and while at some point there will be a second stage, there are no indications of when that might happen.
“The overwhelming majority of citizens in the town want the summer festival back on the wharf,” Matthew told The Southern Gazette, adding that means using the Bait Depot.
Burfitt said he had hoped there could be a workaround so that the special events committee could still use the building during the summer festival.
“We are still going to be searching for another venue within our community and we have a bit of time to work on that,” he told The Southern Gazette.
The question is, where? Grand Bank has few available options and there is some concern the theatre could be lost, possibly to another town.
One available building in the town is the Pentecostal Church, which has been put up for sale. Acquiring the church and turning it into a theatre, however, would need the involvement of the federal and provincial governments.
Money has been invested in other communities in the province where theatre is a prominent tourism attraction, Matthews noted.
Last year, combined funding of $4.2 million was allocated for the construction of a new multi-functional theatre complex in Cow Head on the Northern Peninsula.
With obstacles also come opportunities, Matthews pointed out.
“I’m confident the theatre will do fine. They have a good board of directors, they’re energized, they’re very knowledgeable,” he said.
“But they do need a stable home.”